The Jerk and The Liar

 

I asked my 15 year old daughter what her perspective on the election was. We don’t talk about politics or watch a lot of news in our home, but I want my children to understand how great it is that we live in a nation where we have the freedom to choose our leadership.

I wanted her to make the connection between the everyday freedoms she enjoys and how the risks that our founding fathers took have benefited her and others.

I want her to have an understanding that while she is just one in a nation of millions she can have a voice and a say.

She shied away from my question and said, “I don’t really have an opinion”. I pressed. If you could describe the two primary candidates that are running for president in one word, what would you say?

One’s a jerk and one’s a liar.

Whoa! That blew me away.   She’s ingested those words from somewhere. The media, conversations with friends, I don’t really know where, but it’s her opinion and observation.

We went on to talk about the relationship between leaders and followers. We talked about how who we follow and spend time with not only influences us but also becomes a reflection of who we are because of association. It was a great conversation, but it disturbed me slightly that this was her perception of choice.

If my 15 year old believes this, what does the rest of the nation believe?  I know there is great anxiety in this election and I personally am undecided. I do believe that whoever wins is part of God’s plan for this nation and I have to trust in whatever the outcome is. While I don’t know either of the candidates personally, my daughter’s words resonated with me right or wrong.

I just can’t get her words out of my head. We all know jerks and we all know liars.  And if in fact we are choosing between a jerk and a liar, I asked myself why do they behave that way?

Here are two definitions:

jerk: a person who treats others badly usually in service to one’s personal interest or advantage

liar: a person who emits false statements with the intent to deceive in service of self interest

What’s the common thread between these two definitions?

Self interest.

Duh, they are running for president! They want to win!  They are personally vested in themselves to win.  I get that.  Yet, the words of Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg address come to mind…

Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth. – Abe Lincoln

Are we still for the people? Or are we for ourselves?

 

No Man

You’re “no man”.

Do you want to come for dinner? – No

Do you want to come to this men’s retreat? – No

Do you want to go check out this band? – Nah

No is easy for me.  Too easy.  My default answer to any invitation is no. It’s not because I’m not interested or don’t care.

I am afraid of joining in. I say no because it requires change. It calls me out of my comfort zone and if I commit, then I might miss out on something else.

In my haste to say no, I’m actually saying yes to something else. I’m saying yes to complacency. I’m saying yes to relational stagnation.

There is power in an invitation.  It presents a decision, an opportunity. The choice could impact my life or another’s life in ways that I could never imagine.

You never know what hangs in the balance of an invitation.

I need to say yes more. I need to leave “no mans land” and the fear of uncertainty.  I must embrace choice.

And yet, I must remain wary of the opposite extreme of yes man.  Too much yes and I will be running on the treadmill of busyness with no end in sight.

I need a better filter.

I must say yes to the things that I was made to do and no to the things that others ought to do. Or as John Maxwell says, “I need to say no to the good, so I can say yes to the best.”

As I think about this, my decisions are really a choice to invest in an invitation. Those investments can yield high return or low return.  Just like financial investments they have a cost, usually in the form of time but also money and resources.

The gain, especially when it comes to impacting others can be measured in influence and life change.  It’s a matter of significance. Are peoples lives generally getting better as a result of this choice?  Does what I’m spending time today that give me more time tomorrow?

There is opportunity cost too.  Every yes to one thing, is a no to something else.  If I choose to spend time working on a board and it consumes three evenings a week and I have three kids at home, then my time to invest in them has just been limited.

I know there is not a magic formula, but it’s helpful to think of invitations in this regard.  Is the return on my investment in this invitation going to outweigh the cost and will it yield a positive influence in the lives of others? Does this investment have the potential to outlive me?

As I think about my decision investments to date, I have a career, I have a passion project, I have a volunteer position and I have a responsibility to my family as a husband and a father.

Time to get out of no mans land, keep yes man in check and balance the investment portfolio.

 

Tension

I’m stuck.  I’m torn.  I’m battling a choice.  An unresolved conflict.  A question.  A question of calling.  A question of significance.  A burden.  A gap.  I’m want to fill it.  I’m afraid to fill it.  Tension.

What am I made to do?

What problems do I want to solve with my life?

Questions that beg to be answered. I wrestle with them.  They are elusive. They nag me.  They make me look at my day differently.

My desk feels like a prison.  I’ve become disenchanted.  I’ve lost the fire for what it is that I create.  The domain and subject matter have become stale.  I used to consume it. I loved to read about it.  Apply what I learned. Try new things. It was exciting and new.  It’s become dull and in need of polish.

There is a new fire. It’s immature.  It wants to burn.  The flames need fanning. I must explore it.

The question of calling of problem solving of helping…Is this the place where I am to leave my mark?  The place where I am impacting the next generation?

No regrets.

I don’t have an answer. That’s why there is tension.  The question is good. It needs to remain.  It needs to hang in the balance of the tension.  I must explore it.

I have a hunch. I sense an answer.  It’s not clear. It’s rumbling around in my brain.  The dots need connecting.  The thought needs formulating. The prayers need answering.

At last a clue

My love for what is fading, but my love for who is gaining.

Defining Moments

Our choices determine our future. They define what we love, what we will be known for and what we will do with our lives. – Jeff Shinabarger, Yes or No

There are 3 decisions that I have made this year that have impacted the direction and attention in my life.

The Decision To Offer Help

In January every year, I follow the masses into the world of “getting back into shape”.  A couple years ago, I realized that doing that on my own was not working, so I decided to invite some friends along for accountability and some fun.  I created a workout plan and shared it with my friends over email.

My writing seemed to resonate and finding others to follow along felt like the right next step.  So, I walked into a local running shop and offered to help.

It was awkward.

I was out of my comfort zone. I had limited experience. But, to my surprise, the owner happened to be looking for someone to write their newsletter.   I’ve been writing once a week for them ever since.  The decision to walk into that store altered how I spend a couple evenings a week.  It has set me on a path of creative service that I had never considered.

Now, I did not go into that store with a heart to help. I was selfishly motivated to to see if the emails I had been sending to my friends would connect with a broader audience.  Once I started connecting with folks in that community my desire to help grew.

As I served them, the desire to serve myself dissipated.

The Decision to Pursue Passion

My daughter loves to dance.  She’s in dance class at least 20 hours a week. She dances in the kitchen when she is not in the studio.  She follows dancers on social media.  She’s always up to date on the latest type of bun you can put in your hair. Dance consumes her and it’s a large part of what makes her unique.

This past year she auditioned and was given the opportunity to attend an out of state arts school…a boarding school.  Many factors went in to evaluating this decision…boys, peer pressure, influence, money, safety, education..but ultimately, it came down to giving my daughter permission to pursue her passion in a unique environment at a time that could have the largest impact on either confirming or denying what she loves.

It’s been amazing for her so far.  As a parent, I’ve had to grow too.  I’ve learned how to give my daughter space and freedom to grow in ways that I don’t think I would have learned without having the physical distance between us.

The Decision to Connect in Community

My wife and I attend Buckhead Church. It’s a huge church in a network of churches throughout the Atlanta area.  It’s easy to be anonymous in such a big church.  In an effort develop relationships, we decided to get out of the rows on Sunday morning and get into a circle on Sunday evening.

The connection with other people aligned with a common purpose has been fulfilling.  I believe we all have a desire to be known and I’ve found that being in a group opens you to a caring network of friends.  My guard is down and I am there for them and they are there for me.

In summary, I see a pattern between these decisions.

The Pattern is People

Find something that matters, identify a need, offer to help and bring others together under a common purpose.  Align those things and it makes it easy to say yes to an invitation.